Postum, created in 1895 by C. W. Post, suspiciously resembled Kellogg’s Caramel Coffee, and was successfully marketed as a coffee substitute by blatantly lying in advertisements on the negative impacts of coffee. One 1904 advertisement reads, “Because, with most people, coffee weakens the heart, inflames the spinal cord, and arrests the digestion of food, by partially petrifying it in the stomach as alcohol would in a specimen jar.”
Post fed on the paranoia of the time; Americans were eating diets heavy in grease and meat, and dyspepsia (or indigestion) was a common complication. By suggesting that coffee was the root of all these problems, Post effectively dismayed consumers from purchasing the caffeinated beverage; however, Post’s public barrage on coffee did not stop himself from drinking it, and, in an ironic twist, Post ended up purchasing the coffee giant Maxwell House in 1928.
By this time, Post had become an incredibly wealthy man, and had been a millionaire since 1902. Even still, Postum workers were treated unfairly; his packing women were paid a third of a cent for each box of Postum, and if the box was accidentally torn, the women were charged 25 cents for the accident.
Collier’s Weekly in 1905, refused to print any more Postum advertisements due to their outrageous medical claims. Post responded with an $18,000 article advertisement in which he called the author of the Collier’s Weekly article as having “curdled gray matter.” In response, Collier’s filed a libel suit against Post. Post was found guilty and fined $50,000. After the lawsuit, Postum no longer claimed to cure serious maladies, but constipation instead.
During the coffee rationing of World War II, Postum saw a rise in sales when American citizens sought a coffee replacement, but was discontinued in 2007. It has recently been restocked in a few stores in Utah due to popular demand.